Posted by: steveonfilm | January 25, 2012

The Happy Ending

I came across this article about producer Lindsay Doran a week or two ago. I remember reading it and thinking that Lindsay was super smart, had some great perspective and insight, and I wanted to post about it on the blog. But then I sort of forgot about the article. This morning while listening to this week’s Scriptnotes podcast, John and Craig brought up the article and talked about it a little bit. So I figured it’s probably a good idea to share it.

After reading the book “Flourish,” by Martin E. P. Seligman, a catalyst of the positive-psychology movement, she began rewatching films through the lens of what Dr. Seligman identifies as the five essential elements of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. (He refers to these elements collectively as perma.)

The results surprised her. And they inspired a stealth campaign to reverse the Hollywood superstitions that a “movie is only art if it ends badly, and that you’ll only win an Academy Award if you write or direct a movie about misery or play someone miserable,” as she put it.

Lindsay’s main argument is that, as a a veteran market researcher told her, “What makes an audience happy is not the moment of victory but the moment afterwards when the winners shares that victory with someone they love.”

Think about that for a moment. Think about your favorite movie. The one that makes you feel all giddy inside. The one you can watch over and over. Think of the next two or there down the list. How many of them have the protagonist sharing their victory with someone they love. And I don’t mean love in only the man/woman sense, I mean in an emotional sense. Think Red walking up the beach to see Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption.” I realized, she’s totally right.

The article as a whole is a great, and fast, read. It helped give me some new perspective into how I look at my screenplays, and hopefully it will give you some additional insight as well.

Keep writing,
-Steve

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